Have the necessary conversation before the big day, says local man
As wedding season approaches, Larry Fisher, who is 70, and has been with his wife for nearly five decades, thinks that couples on the brink of betrothal ought to take very seriously pre-marriage discussions.
For years, Fisher has compiled a list of things that people should know before they get married, a collection cobbled together from personal experience and input from others. The result is a document containing 80 points, which Fisher calls, “Some things I would want my daughters or grandchildren to know before getting married.”
“It would be my hope that everyone can find a partner and have happiness and be fulfilled in a marriage,” said Fisher. “I also understand that we live in a throw-away world, and some do not really think about those cherished words they say at their wedding ceremony, like ‘For better or worse’ and ‘For richer or poorer’ and ‘Till death do us part.’ I have to admit that I have been blessed to be in my 49th year of marriage and have a wonderful wife. Not only can she cook and sew, she can fix almost anything around the house, she is my best friend, and she does not mind me going golfing.”
Fisher said that he has seen the oft-quoted statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.“When you go to the altar, you don’t think that it’s going to be you, because you’re in love with this person. But it’s still 50 percent.”
“When you go to the altar, you don’t think that it’s going to be you, because you’re in love with this person. But it’s still 50 percent.”
Fisher attributes much of this 50 percent to things that people fail to discuss leading up to their wedding.
“My niece found out later that her husband had sizable debts, and that put a real strain on their marriage. These things should be found out before,” he said.
Many of Fisher’s recommendations involve transparency on financial issues, since money is well known to be a primary cause of failed partnerships. They range from broader matters, like whether someone is a saver or a spender, and to more specific ones.
Point 33 suggests that people become aware of their partner’s current credit card debt, while Point 40 suggests reviewing expenses, net income, assets and liabilities, and previous tax returns.
Fisher’s checklist also urges couples to think deeply about communication before marrying.
“Two people who cannot be emotionally open with each other can never have true intimacy and love,” reads Point 72.
“We tend to be afraid to share what we feel because expressing it makes us vulnerable; it’s dangerous. With the person you’re considering marrying you must be sure you feel safe. How do you know if the two of you are emotionally open and honest? The next time you have a conversation with your partner, ask him or her, ‘What do you feel about me right now?’ or, ‘How does what I just said make you feel?’ If you can communicate like this with each other consistently, you have the potential for building an intimate relationship.”
Fisher is a devout Christian, and, though not a Catholic, he praised the Catholic practice of extensive counseling of a couple prior to their making their vows. He said also that he believes that religious faith gives greater gravity to marriage—that it is something sacrosanct and not to be done lightly.
“If you’re into the Bible, it says that a woman must submit to her husband, but it also says that a man is supposed to be willing to die for his wife,” said Fisher.
He said that he has had many differences of opinion with his wife over their half century as partners, but that they have always been able to resolve these disputes.
“You mature together over time,” he said. “Some things that used to bother her about me aren’t a big deal any more.”
Despite his hope that marriage leads to a mutual maturation, Fisher’s checklist cautions against an expectation of change. Point 47: “What irritates you about your guy now will really play on you after you’re married. If he is a total slob and a night owl when you’re an early bird, don’t kid yourself into thinking he’ll change once you’re hitched. Assume that any negative qualities you’re seeing will remain negative, and be realistic about what you’re willing to live with. So decide what’s a deal-breaker and what’s not before your boyfriend becomes your husband.”
Point 47 hints at a need for flexibility, and Fisher otherwise emphasizes that individuals must think deeply about what they are willing to adjust to, and what they are not.
“What are your ‘non-negotiables’ in marriage? What is unacceptable, no matter what? What do you see as an ‘unforgivable’ offence? What would be your response to it? It's crucial to know what things your partner will not tolerate in a relationship so that you can avoid problems before they happen,” writes Fisher, who also recommends that couples think about their position on marriage counseling.“Marriage does not start at the wedding and goes on forever all by itself,” he said. “It needs to be worked on day by day. And it will be only as good as the investment you make in it.”
“Marriage does not start at the wedding and goes on forever all by itself...it needs to be worked on day by day. And it will be only as good as the investment you make in it.”
In addition to formal marriage counseling, he says that it’s important for people to know who has influence over their partner.
“Your mom? Your best friend? Your sister? Who has the ability to change your mind? Who influences the way you think?” he says.
“It’s important to know who your partner listens to and respects; it's especially important to know what kind of advice your partner will be receiving from those people, as one day he or she may be going to them for advice about your marriage.”
Fisher advises that anyone with suggestions for additions contact him at [email protected]